Transfer Madness: Will the NCAA DESTROY or SAVE College Football?

Brandon Viall Editorials 57 Comments

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I never thought I would do this, but, I’m going to apply Bob Dylan to sports. (Stick with me, folks!) As Dylan once sang, Oh the times, they are a-changin’. 

As talk of an amendment to the NCAA’s transfer rules heats up, Dylan’s words may prove more true than ever. In a move that could rock college sports to the core, the NCAA is examining whether or not to allow undergraduate athletes to transfer and play immediately. There are currently five sports that enforce a one-year waiting rule: football, men’s and women’s basketball, hockey and baseball. The University of Oregon has plenty of examples of how this rule has been utilized in the past.

In short, for those who are unfamiliar with the trend, the current one time transfer exception works like this. (Pay attention; it gets tricky!) A player transferring from a Football Bowl Subdivision team (formerly 1-A for the old timers) going down to a Football Championship Subdivision team (formerly 1-AA) can play right away. Players doing the reverse — going from a 1-AA school to a 1-A school — must forfeit a year of eligibility.

Craig Strobeck

Former University of Oregon quarterback Morgan Mahalak ended up at Towson University after transferring.

This rule has been in place, largely unchanged, since 1994. One example of a player going from a 1-A school to a 1-AA school is former Oregon quarterback Morgan Mahalak, a four-star 2014 prospect who many thought could be the heir apparent to Marcus Mariota. Mahalak ended up transferring to Towson University in Maryland, with moderate success.

Here’s where it gets interesting, because there is a second loophole (there always is, right?) The Graduate Transfer Rule, as it’s commonly known, says that, if a player graduates from a 1-A school with a four-year degree, he is eligible to play immediately at another school. The first use of this exception was former Duke University guard Tyler Krieg, who started at Duke in 2006, then graduated and transferred to the University of California where he played immediately.

For Oregon fans, the most prevalent example of this particular rule is Vernon Adams Jr. who transferred from Eastern Washington University to Oregon in 2015 and kicked off a brief trend of graduate transfer quarterbacks coming to the university.


Russell Wilson left NC State for Wisconsin and a 2012 Rose Bowl.

The NCAA statistics show that, as of 2019, less than 1 percent of men’s football players transferred after graduation. But the trend, according to an NCAA report, has nearly tripled in the last half decade. The most well-known example of this rule is Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. The former North Carolina State University signal caller graduated and transferred to University of Wisconsin and led the Badgers to the 2012 Rose Bowl. Wilson, as we all know, has found wild success in the National Football League.

The reason these transfer exceptions were put into place was to give players some freedom of movement while allowing some way to prevent teams from stacking themselves with talent. Then again, there’s an argument to be made that teams such as the 2001 Miami Hurricanes, 2006 University of Southern California Trojans and 2006 University of Texas Longhorns will happen anyway. If the newly-proposed transfer rule change with no waiting goes through, it might be a case of the rich robbing the poor to get even richer, even faster; however, the issue is even more complex.

One other major concern is that student-athletes who transfer are less likely to complete a graduate degree. Just 28 percent of football players who transfer complete an advanced degree as opposed to 50 percent of those who stay at their parent institution. These statistics seem the make a solid argument that less is more, as the saying goes.


Former University of Oregon quarterback and current CFL quarterback Jeremiah Masoli transferred due to legal issues.

An added tragic element is that not all transfers work out. This doesn’t necessarily mean athletes shouldn’t be allowed to transfer, of course, but perhaps they should be more cautious when doing so. One cautionary tale that makes this point is former Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, who transferred to the University of Mississippi. Though he performed well that year, he never managed to succeed in the NFL and has had an up and down career in the Canadian Football League.

The NCAA has considered this change in the past, shooting it down as recently as April. Not surprisingly, not all coaches are in favor of waiving the transfer requirements. University of Montana Coach Bobby Hauck was sharply critical of getting rid of the one-year wait requirement, saying of the idea, “Greetings from the farm system.” By now, it’s no secret to my readers that I often disagree with the NCAA.

On this one, Hauck and the NCAA might have a valid point. For once, I might actually agree with them. I can hear Dylan now…  Oh the times, they are a-changin’!

Brandon Viall
Missoula, Montana
Top Photo by Gary Breedlove

Natalie Liebhaber, the Volunteer Editor for this article, works in the financial technology industry in Bozeman, Montana.

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Simply put I think players deserve 1 “free transfer”. These players sign letters of intent at 17-18-19 years old. These contracts only guarantee a spot on the team for one year. Coaches and teams have the right to ‘wave’ players after their first year. I do want to specify that the pac12 and I think all power5 conferences guaranteed scholarship provision so even if ‘waved’ they are still guaranteed an education.

and before you think oregon doesn’t do this, we have seen a number of players transfer out of oregon likely at the behest of the coaching staff. I think a prime example is Schooler who by all accounts wanted to redshirt last year to improve his nfl stock and ended up grad transferring because the staff didn’t want to shirt him which would have exhausted his eligibility.

If teams can “give up” on players than players deserve the same right.

Jon Joseph

This to me is the ultimate in hypocrisy. Mel Tucker convinces a group of young men to come to CU. Then, post-signing day, Mel leaves for Michigan State and more $. Mel most certainly is coaching now, ask Jim Harbaugh, and not sitting out a year.

I believe in ‘equal protection under the law.’ Student-athletes in 5 sports are not being treated equally to the other student athletes on campus.

Jon Joseph

Spot on. No P5 conference pulls the scholarship of a waived/cut or career-finished-injured, player.

And who knows what any recruit may have been promised by less scrupulous coaches than Mario?


Ah, yes…………Russell Wilson transferred to Wisconsin and led the Badgers to the 2012 Rose Bowl where they………………..lost to our Ducks!

Wilson certainly has found success in the NFL playing for the Seahawks.


I’m 100% for allowing players to transfer without having to sit a year as long as their grades are in order. If their grades are not in order then they should sit out a year to catch up in the classroom. Players don’t get paid, they’re not property. If there’s a better opportunity out there for them then there’s no reason to hold them back. The NCAA should focus on players graduating not where they play. I don’t feel bad for coaches like Hauck at all.

Jon Joseph

Great point. I believe in order to qualify to transfer a player will have to be in good standing academically and otherwise.

Jon Sousa

What would that do to Masoli? If I am remembering correctly, he not only was not in good standing, he was kicked off the team. I suppose it would make him sit out a year?

Jon Joseph

Masoli was not NFL worthy. But of course, he was SEC worthy.

Jon Joseph

But notwithstanding being thrown out of school, both Masoli and CAM suited up in the SEC.


Fortunately, some teams are always stacked with talent and it doesn’t do them any good, and I’m very glad that I don’t have Bob Dylan singing stuck in my head.

Jon Joseph

How does it feel, to be on your own, with no direction home, like a rolling stone, Cardinal by Puddles owned ?


“Retain” is an interesting word. Why should schools have control over players, especially since they’re not getting paid? I’m all for leveling the playing field and giving the players much more autonomy. The control of players by schools and the NCAA is out of control.


I don’t see why not. Coaches come and go all the time. The whole “sit out a year” thing is nonsense. Can you imagine if you put your notice in at work and your boss told you, “well, you’ll have to sit out a year”. The players don’t even get paid.

Jon Joseph

In many respects with the transfer portal, CFB is ‘this close’ to free agency now. No one can prevent a player from entering the portal and no one can restrict where that player wants to transfer to. Even the SEC finally caved in on this point.

Interesting that Fields and others (JT Daniels) have been granted immediate playing time while many have not.

In Fields case, he was able to hire a top drawer lawyer who knew he would eventually be paid. A QB who transferred to Kent St in Ohio the same year as Fields transferred to Columbus, was denied immediate eligibility. This young man could not legal counsel that one day, and relatively soon, he would be able to pay their legal fees.

I think this is wrong on its face.

Jon Joseph


8 team playoff using latest AP Poll.

8 OK ST B12 at 1 Clemson ACC
5 UGA AL at 4 Notre Dame AL

7 Oregon – Pac-12 at 2 Bama SEC
6 Cincinnati G5 at 3 Ohio State B1G

With Clemson at ND and UGA vs Florida, there could be a big difference in the team’s and the seeding next week?

Mike West

Clemson 70
OklaSt 21

UGA. 30
ND. 17

tOSU. 56
Cinci. 28

Bama. 35
Ducsk. 24

No defense in BiG12, Norte Dame’s playoff bid ends this week. Cincinnati never should qualify(until they join and win a P5 conference ), and our Ducks are a year or two away (though we may have the secondary to slow Bama down, we aren’t able to match TDs drive for drive, which is absolutely necessary).

Im still not a fan of participation playoffs. Iron on iron Cinci might be able to beat Okla St, but I have serious doubts (and they certainly haven’t faced what TCU and Utah have- neither of which has earned a conference title).

Jon Joseph

Don’t disagree. But for ‘political’ purposes when the field goes to 8, 5 P5 champs and a G5 team will be in the field.

Without this, it will stay at 4, revert to 2 or, be gone. And $ will not allow ‘it’ to be gone.

Only score I question. OK ST actually has a legit D. OK ST lost to TX because of 5 turnovers, not because the D played badly.

Jon Sousa

If G5 is never in, then they should have their own championship playoffs and P5 should be in a league by themselves with their own playoffs. If G5 is never in then 130 Division 1 teams is a joke. Everyone in a “Division” should have a way to qualify for their Division National Championship… ala Men’s and Women’s BB.


Waiting one year for eligibility to play seems reasonable to me. I understand wanting a chance to play, and the QB position is the primary position where a player could be “stuck” on the sidelines until the game has been decided.

However, these are still young adults and some decisions that they make are questionable. Can’t make the transfer rules too easy. I would not want to see a player leave because an emotionally charged moment got the best of them, and they pack their bags and hit the transfer trail. A one year waiting period is fair, unless a degree has been earned.

Looking at the number of players that opt out early to chase the dream of an NFL career, which in the end doesn’t work out, is another area that should be reviewed. If the NCAA is looking out for the long-term welfare of student athletes, then having an option to return and continue play also seems reasonable.

Jon Sousa

I cannot disagree with your last paragraph. This is one of the players demands last summer and makes sense. Maybe something like MBB where they can declare for the draft and then undeclare before the draft happens. They were demanding that they be allowed back in after the draft if they remain undrafted.

Jon Joseph

Spot on regarding CBB. Can return if an agent is not hired.

You can enter the portal in CFB and come back if the team has a scholly open and will take you back. But you can’t come back in CFB, except in this crazy COVID season, if you have hired an agent. This too will change when the NIL legislation is approved. CFB guys will be able to hire an agent and keep on playing.

Makes sense to me. After all, you can take millions of dollars from a pro baseball team and win the Heisman Trophy.

As noted elsewhere, I think a player’s personal freedom trumps concerns about roster management. And with the limit on scholarships and the fact a guy remains on scholly today if ‘cut,’ for other than disciplinary reasons, and in the case of injury, I do not see a whole bunch of guys from team A being able to opt out all at once for team B.

I do see the better G5 guys missed in HS recruiting moving on up. But again, how many spots do you leave open for possible transfers?

Jon Joseph

Leading by example? Like Dan Mullen last Saturday and Mel Tucker stiff-arming the kids at CU?

UF and Mizzou players will miss the next game. Mullen, please give us $25K of your multi-million dollar salary.


The whole idea that athletes can’t have agents is ridiculous. The restrictions the NCAA places on them is just obscene. It would never hold up in the workplace.


If Cale Millen has a better chance of starting for the Beavs, why should he sit out of year? That’s punitive lMO and makes no sense. Players aren’t property of the schools.


The NCAA is a cartel and I think the public is beginning to recognize this. I predict a lot more freedom for the players in the future including earning endorsement money off the field. The whole idea of an amateur athlete status is archaic and is basically a system of control. It’s completely absurd given that big time college sports are billion dollar enterprises and the players don’t get paid. A little freedom is way past due.

Jon Sousa

I have often thought that athletes are “allowed” to have a part time job. If they can have a part time job, why can’t they work at a car lot? If they can work at a car lot, why can’t they be on the TV ad at advertises said car lot? What about having a part time job as a bit actor? A bit actor that does commercials?

I had a college school mate who was a professional actor. While he was a student he got a few small parts in some movies and TV. What if he was also a walk-on on the football team?

Jon Joseph

1 ‘free’ transfer rule will soon be approved for all NCAA sports. I am in favor of this happening as I generally am in freedom of choice in all human endeavors.

As we have witnessed, transfers can make a difference, see Fields who loop-holed his way into immediate playing time at Ohio State, but Fields is the exception and not the rule. If Eason had been able to start immediately at UW after leaving UGA, would it really have made a significant difference on the field?

I think where it is most likely to have an impact will be G5 guys who were under the radar as HS recruits moving up to the P5. And it could also make a difference at QB and other skill positions? (Make no mistake, kosher or not, G5 teams will be scouted for potential transfer candidates.)

Really interesting take, thank you. IMO, the 1 free transfer rule and the coming NIL approval will not change the championship calculus in CFB in any material fashion. Ohio State would still dominate the B1G with or without Justin Fields.

This week’s suggested plays.

1.Clemson -6.5 at 4.Notre Dame.- The Irish have not won a game of this magnitude since 1993. Since 2015, Clemson has won 7 top 5 vs top 5 matchups. I like the Tigers and ‘back up’ QB. DJU.

8. Texas A+M -8 at South Carolina – A 1L A+M team is very much in the playoff hunt. South Carolina can be sneaky good at home but compared to the Aggies, has nothing to play for.

15. Coastal Carolina -15.5 vs S Alabama – The only reason this line is this low is that the ‘experts’ must sense a let down coming from the Chanticleers? Coastal is one of the feel good stories in a feel bad year.

The above picks are made in honor of Greenville, SC resident, Brent Pennington and my new hometown of Aiken, SC. I see SO CAR teams winning 2 out of 3; I expect the University of Spoiled Chickens will not be game enough to stop the Aggies.

YTD ATS – 7-4.


Jon, I agree with all your picks, and closer to home, my Pac-12 picks:

ASU @ USC -10.5 Helton’s coaching liabilities take place over time.
AZ @ Utah-14.0 Utah is the model of stability.
UCLA -6.5 @ CO. Mel Tucker didn’t leave a powerhouse in Boulder.
Stanford @ OREGON -10.5 21-10 Ducks sounds just right.
WSU @ OSU -1.5 Beavers building, Cougs starting over.
UW @ Cal -1.5 Husky fans are talking like it’s 1991.

Jon Joseph

Good stuff. IMO, CAL/UW is a toss up but if I had to I’d go with CAL. Garbers and all 5 starting OL guys back. And the same HC and OC are in place.

I like all the other picks with the possible exception of UCLA/CU? Who will win the battle of the bad? Should be Chipper versus 1st year guy Dorrell, but who knows?

BTW, according to SP+, Stanford is the Ducks penultimate ‘regular season’ toughest opponent.

Jon Sousa

(Make no mistake, kosher or not, G5 teams will be scouted for potential transfer candidates.)

Jon, what do you think about not allowing teams to contact a player who has not entered the transfer portal?

A kid might not have any desire to transfer, but all of a sudden he gets a call from Saint Nick… How does a guy ignore that?

Jon Joseph

No. Schools are not allowed to ‘tamper’ with other rosters. In the portal, a player is free game.

The 1 free transfer rule will require a player who wants to transfer to give notice on or before a given date(s). Today, who is immediately eligible, Eason sits while Fields does not, is a crap shoot that IMO, needs to end.

Jon Joseph

Jon, it will not be allowed but it will happen. Saban won’t be the guy making the call, but the owner of the Tuscaloosa Tire Center on Saban’s behalf?

If there was not a cap on scholarships, I’d be far more inclined to see the free transfer and the pending NIL approval as being ‘championship-changing’ problematic?


I don’t see this as an issue at all. If there’s a better opportunity out there then why shouldn’t players have the ability to take it? Are we really expecting them to be overly loyal? The biggest issue for me by a mile is are players graduating? That’s where the NCAA should place their focus and not allow players to get on the field if they’re not cutting it in the classroom.

Jon Joseph

I think the best guys from the G5 and FCS will move up. But the # will be limited by available scholarships. Do you sign the 3* guy or keep a spot open for a quality G5, FCS transfer?

There will be restrictions on tampering, but I imagine this will occur, regardless.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Brandon, thanks for bringing this to our attention as it could really mess up the college football landscape as we know it.

I can see big schools being concerned about all their depth transferring out and being left in a tough spot with injuries.

I could see the smaller Power-5 schools being concerned as a “star” for them that emerges is suddenly gone to a big program. I don’t just see the 1-AA schools being the farm system, but every school that is not “elite” could end up losing their best players if they are not winning.

Everybody loses.

The individual wins, no? A player on a golf scholarship can transfer out and be immediately eligible, why not a football or baseball player?

Notice, the only ‘restricted transfer’ sports are for the most part, the $ ball sports. Any surprise that up to this point in time CFB and CBB coaches have favored a system that favors them and not the individual athlete?

I do see this new rule possibly affecting the G5? I don’t think many G5 star player’s are going to stay at the lower level once “offered” by a P5 team? I see nothing wrong with this; many kid is missed when it comes to HS evaluations. Why shouldn’t these kids have a chance to exhibit their talent on a bigger stage?

This rule will likely make roster management slightly more difficult for P5 multi-millionaire coaches? BOO-HOO. If it makes a MAC team less competitive in its unattended week night games, does it matter? 1 or even a few players will not make the difference between an athletic department finishing in the red or the black.

Is there any reason why the 3rd or 4th string QB on the Ducks roster should not be able to transfer, if he so desires, to a place where he will be immediately eligible and have a better chance to start?

You make a very good point about the rich perhaps getting richer. But I very much doubt this rule is going to eliminate a Purdue or a CU from a shot at a title?

Certainly agree that this is an excellent and very well written, ponder point.

Jon Joseph

But, should Jerry Rice because he played at a small HS in the rural south have to play 4 years at MS Valley State when he is good enough to play at Ole Miss or MIss St?